While iPhoto is a wonderful tool for the consumer market—helping people store and tweak the photographs they take in everyday life—it is completely inadequate for managing the large libraries that professionals or dedicated amateurs will quickly accumulate. Adobe Lightroom 5 is a library system for images, allowing you to tag, catalog, and export photos in a nondestructive environment, along with basic manipulation tools.
You start with Lightroom 5 by importing images into a catalog. The catalog is a record of your image data, not the photos themselves, which keeps the file size down. You can import images directly from your drive or add them from online sources like Flickr, Facebook, etc. Since Lightroom is only dealing with a handful of photo data at a time (unlike a full iPhoto library) while displaying the rest as thumbnails, it moves quickly even with the largest libraries.
In terms of organization, Lightroom offers a great deal of flexibility. You can batch-assign keywords and star ratings, and access Google services to create a geo-map of your photo locations. You can batch your photos in collections manually or create smart collections based on the criteria you assign.
Lightroom also includes basic photo editing tools. You can see your EXIF data, a histogram, rotation, and the ability to alter the white balance, and tone. They’ve also added the Healing Brush tool from Photoshop, allowing you to do spot fixes to pictures. For any larger photo manipulation, you’ll want the full version of Photoshop, but Lightroom gives you a full suite of tools that a professional photographer would have had back in an physical darkroom.
Lightroom is a great tool for organizing a professional library, even on older machines. The search tools make finding the photo you’re looking for a snap, either in a grid of thumbnails or using keyword search. The integration with online services like Flickr means you can organize your library even if you store it in the cloud, and the small catalog size means you can store it on a thumb drive or cloud service like Dropbox to sync between machines quickly. Best of all, you can have multiple catalog files to separate your work (between, say, personal and professional, or for different clients). Even on my older MacBook Pro, it worked quickly and efficiently with tens of thousands of photos.
If you’re a professional photographer, Lightroom 5 is well worth the investment strictly for the time and stress it’ll save you in wrangling a huge image library and letting you find what you want, quickly.
Provides: Idea and design organization
Format: Digital download or DVD
Requirements: Multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support, OS X 10.7, 2GB of RAM (4GB recommended)
Availability: Out now